Kentucky Derby betting hit $188.7 million on Saturday, a new record for the race. It is nearly $10 million more than last year’s previous record of $179 million.
According to figures released by Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), the total handle across all 14 races, including Kentucky Derby wagering, also set an all-time high. Horseplayers wagered $288.7 million Saturday, a 5% increase over last year.
Betting across the entire week reached $412 million, another record high. The previous record was set last year at $391.8 million. Derby Week began at Churchill Downs Tuesday and included Friday’s record-high Kentucky Oaks Day handle of $74.9 million.
TwinSpires role in record-setting Kentucky Derby
TwinSpires, CDI’s online horse betting platform, handled a new record of $73.6 million on Derby Day, up 9% from $67.4 million last year.
Handle on the race itself set a new record for TwinSpires, too. According to a CDI press release, the platform handled $47 million, topping last year’s previous high-water mark of $44 million.
“We expect the Kentucky Derby Week Adjusted EBITDA to reflect a new record with $14 to $16 million of growth over the prior record set last year,” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said in the release.
Horse deaths cast shadow over Triple Crown
Seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. The fatalities led to CDI suspending horse trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and barring him from its properties. Two of Joseph’s horses collapsed and died after racing earlier in the week.
Several other horses were scratched from Saturday’s Run for the Roses over health concerns, including the race’s presumptive favorite, Forte.
CDI issued multiple statements last week as it investigates the incidents, saying it will “rigorously work” to determine what caused them.
Three online sportsbooks entered the Kentucky Derby betting market this year. It is too early to tell if sports bettors will bet on horse racing beyond the Triple Crown. Industry experts have long questioned horse racing’s future, citing equine safety and other issues.